Boxing: Terri Harper targets world title defence on big Matchroom Boxing TV card

Most fighters arrive well before they win their first world title but Terri Harper is ready to announce her presence with her first defence.

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 11:00 am

The reigning IBO super featherweight champion’s rise from obscurity to prominence has come so rapidly that the wider boxing public has yet to catch up.

This weekend they will be given the opportunity to do just that as Harper defends her crown against Viviane Obenauf at Manchester Arena.

Barely two years ago the Denaby Main fighter was preparing for a low key debut against Monika Antonik at The Dome, ending a self-imposed ring exile after a promising junior amateur career that brought multiple national and international honours.

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In just 20 whirlwind months, she had eight fights, winning them all, made her TV debut and captured her first world title.

The women’s ranks may not be as deep as their male counterparts’ but the scale of the achievement should not be downplayed nor underestimated.

On Saturday night she will compete in one of the main supporting bouts for headline act Katie Taylor - the preternaturally talented flag bearer for female boxing, certainly on this side of the Atlantic.

The limelight afforded by the Sky Sports cameras presents Harper the chance to ensure her name is one to watch for the future of women’s boxing.

Taylor’s phenomenal success helped break down barriers that Harper has the chance to stroll through. And maybe Taylor will prove a direct obstacle herself in the future.

The development of Harper - who will turn just 23 on Saturday - has been a pleasure to witness, as has her growing confidence.

Trainer, manager and confidant Stefy Bull once said the only thing that could hold Harper back was a lack of self belief.

But victories and new milestones have seen that belief grow.

Harper possesses slick skills and thudding power to ensure she will trouble most women she steps into the ring with. But she is also smart with it too.

One of the most impressive sights came in her first real test - against Nina Bradley in Barnsley.

Harper had Bradley down and hurt early in the fight and chased a stoppage so hard that she was clearly gassed by the end of the third round.

Suddenly in trouble herself, she listened to the urging of her corner and boxed smart until regaining her breath and pushing forward once more.

In a fight she could so easily have thrown away, she earned the stoppage she had chased.

A devoted and dedicated pupil, she has not stopped learning since.

That growing confidence means she will not be fazed by a packed house in Manchester, nor the expectations that will come from fighting under the Matchroom Boxing banner.

And she will not be cowed by the reputation of title challenger Obenauf.

The Brazilian took Taylor the distance and ended the unbeaten run of Natasha Jonas with a stoppage victory.

It will be a tricky test for Harper but victory will deliver the perfect statement as she targets more world titles at super featherweight.

While Harper’s professional career officially began in November 2017, it can begin in earnest on Saturday night.